Gopher Tortoise

Gopher Tortoise

Gopherus polyphemus

About This Animal

SIZE: Males 15.2 in; Females 12.2 in

RANGE: The Coastal Plain of the Southeastern United States from Louisiana to South Carolina.

HABITAT: Dry, sandy uplands, such as, scrub, pine forests and coastal dunes

DIET: Plants

LIFESPAN: Unknown lifespan but estimated at more than 40 years

ON EXHIBIT: The Delta at River Journey 

About this animal: The gopher tortoise is native to the Southeastern United States and is known for the burrows that it digs. 

Threats:  The main threats to this species include habitat destruction and fragmentation, overharvesting, and climate change. Since 1800s, it has been estimated that populations of Gopher Tortoise have been reduced by 80% largely due to habitat destruction.

Our Impact: The Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute (TNACI) is working on understanding the genetics of this species.  Any good conservation strategy should manage unique populations separately to conserve the genetic diversity and evolutionary potential within the specie. 

Conservation Status: Threatened.  Currently, conservation efforts include moving individual turtles out of the path of construction and development.. Although the Gopher Tortoise is one of the best studied turtle species in the world, populations are continuing to decline.